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COMMENTARY: Bill Cosby Handed Bum Deal from Superior Court

NNPA NEWSWIRE — The primary reason that Cosby and his team cited to justify the appeal is that Judge Steven T. O’Neill allowed the testimony of prior bad acts – five other women who were not connected to this case but who claimed they were also drugged and assaulted by Cosby.

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Cosby maintains that he had never given women Quaaludes without their knowledge or consent. He said he obtained them because, in the 1970s, "it was the in thing." Both women and men wanted them, similar to the ecstasy craze of the 1980s and 1990s.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

On December 10, the Pennsylvania Superior Court unanimously rejected Bill Cosby’s appeal.

The primary reason that Cosby and his team cited to justify the appeal is that Judge Steven T. O’Neill allowed the testimony of prior bad acts – five women who were not connected to this case Cosby was tried for but who claimed that they were also drugged and assaulted by Cosby.

According to several attorneys and legal experts interviewed by NNPA Newswire, that ruling and many of the other decisions made by O’Neill over the course of the trial, were questionable.

“With respect to prior bad acts evidence, such as these other accusers, trial courts often let this type of evidence in where the Commonwealth can show that the allegations were similar or somewhat similar to the allegations in the current case, and the appellate courts usually approve of this,” stated Zak Goldstein, a Philadelphia-based criminal appeals attorney with the firm, Goldstein Mehta LLC

“It then becomes incredibly difficult to obtain a fair trial as this type of propensity evidence is overwhelmingly prejudicial,” Goldstein added.

For those that may be unaware, Cosby faced two trials.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury where 10 of the 12 jurors voted to acquit Cosby.

The second trial resulted in Cosby’s conviction and a three-to-10-year prison sentence.

The NNPA Newswire covered both trials and their aftermath.

Both trials hinged upon Cosby’s interaction with Andrea Constand, a former Temple University athlete and employee.

Cosby acknowledged giving Constand one-and-a-half tablets of Benadryl, which is less than the normally dispensed dosage.

Benadryl is an antihistamine used to relieve symptoms of allergy, hay fever, and the common cold. It is considered one of the oldest and most frequently used over-the-counter medications for children, and normally dispensed in 25 MG tablets at a dosage of one to two tablets every four-to-six hours.

Contrary to popular belief, Quaaludes were never administered to Constand.

Both Cosby and Constand agree that Constand was never coerced to accept the Benadryl tablets. She accepted them and consumed them of her own free will.

During Cosby’s initial trial, in 2017, Constand and Kelly Johnson, who worked for Cosby’s agent, the William Morris Agency, were allowed to testify.

Both women alleged that Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted them.

Johnson initially testified said the incident happened in the late 1980s. However, during her testimony she changed the date of the incident at least three times, citing a different year each time.

While O’Neill allowed prosecutors to call Johnson, whose case was arguably unrelated to Constand, to testify, he refused to allow Cosby’s lawyers to call Marguerite Jackson, a Temple University employee, who in a sworn affidavit, said Constand told her about Constand’s scheme to “get Cosby.”

Because of O’Neill’s refusal to allow testimony from Jackson, the defense did not call a single witness during the 2017 trial, which ended in a hung jury.

“It is not surprising to me that the first trial, where only one ‘prior bad act’ was allowed into evidence, resulted in a hung jury while the second trial, where more accusers were allowed to testify, resulted in a conviction,” Goldstein stated.

In the second trial in 2018, O’Neill shockingly reversed his decision from allowing one woman to testify against Cosby, to letting prosecutors call five other women who had decades-old, uncharged, and unproven claims against the actor.

One of the women, Janice Baker-Kinney, testified that she had taken a Quaalude BEFORE visiting Cosby. Later, she said she accepted another pill from Cosby while at his home in Tahoe, Nevada.

When asked on the witness stand why she took a Quaalude, Baker-Kinney gave perhaps the most damning response: “To get in the mood,” she stated.

Another woman, Chelan Lasha, gave her testimony while being coached from the audience by her attorney.

The Black Press observed attorney Gloria Allred appearing to motion for her client to cry while on the witness stand. Lasha sobbed throughout the entire, almost unintelligible testimony.

O’Neill refused to allow Cosby’s attorneys to question Lasha, or inform the jury, about her reported history of perjury and prostitution.

Another woman, former supermodel Janice Dickinson, testified that Cosby assaulted her in the 1980s.

Dickinson claimed that she was on a modeling shoot on an exotic island with her boyfriend when Cosby called her from Nevada.

She immediately left the boyfriend and flew to Nevada, where she had dinner with Cosby and a friend.

Dickinson said she went to Cosby’s room, and he drugged and assaulted her.

In her memoirs, however, Dickinson wrote an entirely different story.

She said, “Cosby was such a gentleman,” and noted that she had gotten high on her own. A photo displayed in court regarding the night in question was curious.

It showed Cosby in a robe and talking on the telephone, while Dickinson lies on a bed appearing alert and a willing participant in whatever was to take place.

The second trial also was a lesson on how not to select a jury.

When selected, Juror #11, quipped that Cosby was already guilty. However, O’Neill refused defense attorneys request to remove him.

Also, despite other jurors admitting to “personal relationships” with case detectives and prosecutors, O’Neill also refused defense motions to remove them.

One juror even admitted to being neighbors and friends with O’Neill’s court reporter, but the judge declined to remove that individual.

The judge also refused to rule on whether the statute of limitations had expired.

In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations on sexual assault is 12 years. For prosecutors to have brought a case against Cosby that dated back to 2004, it must have been done by December 31, 2016.

A day earlier, on December 30, 2016, prosecutors did charge Cosby.

Lead defense attorney Tom Mesereau laid out travel and telephone records that should have proved that the case against Cosby was filed after the statute of limitations had run.

O’Neill declined to rule on the statute of limitations, and decided to allow jurors to determine if they had indeed expired. Based on statements released by the jury, they never considered the law about the statute of limitations.

Prosecutors pinpointed the date of the Constand/Cosby incident to the second or third week in January 2004. However, evidence showed that Cosby wasn’t in Pennsylvania at all in January 2004.

The documents also showed Cosby wasn’t in the state in December 2003.

Perhaps the most credible witness called by either side was Cosby’s former personal chef, John-Conrad Ste. Marthe.

Earlier, Constand testified that the Ste. Marthe was at the house the night of the incident and left after preparing a meal, and he was still in Cosby’s employ.

Ste. Marthe remembered Constand but testified that he left his position in May of 2003 – a 2009 New York Times feature on the chef noted that he did leave Cosby’s employ in 2003.

O’Neill also limited testimony of a key defense witness who had sworn in a deposition that Constand and her mother were seeking money from Cosby.

Robert Russell, a former friend of Constand, said Constand was hooked on mushrooms and marijuana, and she came to America to try and become a millionaire.

Russell said he, Constand, and her mother, Gianna, were close friends in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“The prosecution is trying to say that [Constand] is some innocent babe in the woods,” Mesereau said at the time. “They’ve painted the idea that’s she’s naïve, pure and holistic, and that she was naïve in accepting pills from Bill Cosby.”

Russell, who said Constand’s mother, Gianna, “hated blacks and gays,” said Constand wasn’t “this holistic person” she portrayed herself to be and that she had a plan to get $1 million from Cosby, who eventually paid Constand nearly $4 million to settle a civil claim she’d brought against him after prosecutors initially declined to prosecute Cosby.

That civil case involved Cosby providing a deposition that included his response to Constand’s lawyers questioning whether he had provided Quaaludes to women he dated decades earlier.

In the deposition, Cosby maintained that he had never given women Quaaludes without their knowledge or consent. He said he obtained them because, in the 1970s, “it was the in thing.” Both women and men wanted them, similar to the ecstasy craze of the 1980s and 1990s.

When asked if he gave them to women whom he wanted to have sex with, Cosby said he did.

While his statements to police and in his deposition remained consistent, Constand’s statements changed several times. So much so, that former District Attorney, Bruce Castor, advised her to seek civil remedies because he said: “she’s not credible.”

O’Neill refused to allow Castor to testify on behalf of the defense, in part, because of a longstanding feud between the judge and Castor.

Reportedly, O’Neill blamed Castor for outing an affair O’Neill had with a then-assistant district attorney in Castor’s office.

During the Cosby trial, O’Neill refused to recuse himself, and inexplicably gave an emotional and arguably inappropriate dissertation from the bench on how much he loves his wife and how she’s independent.

As jurors deliberated Cosby’s fate, O’Neill was seen and heard outside of the juror room, whistling the song from the hit movie, “Kill Bill.”

Shortly afterward, the jury reached its verdict to convict Cosby.

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NNPA – Black Press w/ Hendriks Video Interview

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Black Woman to Lead United States Park Police

 Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

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Pamela A. Smith

Pamela A. Smith, a 23-year veteran of the United States Park Police, will lead the nation’s oldest federal law enforcement agency.

Smith, who became the first African American woman to lead the 230-year-old agency, immediately remarked that she would establish a body-worn camera program for USPP within 90 days.

The program will initially begin in San Francisco and be implemented across the country by the end of the year, Smith said.

“Body-worn cameras are good for the public and good for our officers, which is why I am prioritizing implementing a body-worn camera program within my first 90 days,” Smith offered in a statement.

 “This is one of the many steps we must take to continue to build trust and credibility with the public we have been entrusted to serve.”

Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and graduated from the FBI National Academy. She is a member of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives and the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

During her law enforcement career, the proud Zeta Phi Beta Sorority sister has served as a patrol officer, field training officer, canine handler, and academy instructor at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.

 According to a news release, Smith also served as executive lieutenant to the chief of police, assistant commander of the San Francisco Field Office, commander of the New York Field Office, acting deputy chief of the Homeland Security Division, and deputy chief for the Field Operations Division.

Smith was the first woman to lead the New York Field Office as its Major.

At the USPP, she will lead a 560-member workforce that protects the public, parks, and the nation’s most iconic landmarks in Wash., D.C., New York City, and San Francisco metropolitan areas.

“Chief Smith’s commitment to policing as public service and her willingness to listen and collaborate make her the right person to lead the U.S. Park Police at this pivotal moment in our country,” Shawn Benge, deputy director exercising the delegated authority of the NPS director, noted in a statement.

 “Over the coming months, the leadership of the National Park Service will explore opportunities with Chief Smith designed to strengthen our organization’s commitment to transparency. Her personal and professional experience make her acutely aware of and ready to meet the challenges and responsibilities that face U.S. Park Police and law enforcement agencies across the nation.”

 Jennifer Flynn, the associate director for Visitor Resource Protection at the National Park Service added that she’s looking forward to Smith’s leadership.

“Chief Smith’s experience serving in leadership roles in every U.S. Park Police field office has provided her with an unmatched foundation to lead the diverse agency,” said Flynn, who oversees law enforcement programs at USPP.

 “As federal law enforcement officers, the U.S. Park Police officers have a new opportunity each day to give their best to the American people. Chief Smith exemplifies that approach as a colleague and mentor, and she will be instrumental in refining and shaping the future of the organization,” Flynn said.

Smith declared that she would lead by example and expects all officers to display integrity.

 “I have dedicated my career to the professionalism of law enforcement, and it is my highest honor and privilege to serve as chief of police,” Chief Smith declared. “Today’s officers face many challenges, and I firmly believe challenges present opportunities. I look forward to leading this exemplary team as we carry out our mission with honesty and integrity.”  

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Children’s Defense Fund: State of America’s Children Reveals that 71 Percent of Children of Color Live in Poverty

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

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Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

Part One of an ongoing series on this impactful and informative report.

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

The child population in America is the most diverse in history, but children remain the poorest age group in the country with youth of color suffering the highest poverty rates.

“While we reported on the 73 million children in the U.S. in 2019, which is 22 percent of the nation’s population, we also note that 2020 was the first year in American history that a majority of children are projected to be children of color,” said the Rev. Dr. Starsky Wilson, the president and CEO of the Children’s Defense Fund.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks come as the Marian Wright Edelman founded nonprofit released “The State of America’s Children 2021.”

The comprehensive report is eye-opening.

It highlights how children remain the poorest age group in America, with children of color and young children suffering the highest poverty rates. For instance, of the more than 10.5 million poverty-stricken children in America in 2019, approximately 71 percent were those of color.

The stunning exposé revealed that income and wealth inequality are growing and harming children in low-income, Black and Brown families.

While the share of all wealth held by the top one percent of Americans grew from 30 percent to 37 percent, the share held by the bottom 90 percent fell from 33 percent to 23 percent between 1989 and 2019.

Today, a member of the top 10 percent of income earners makes about 39 times as much as the average earner in the bottom 90 percent.

The median family income of White households with children ($95,700) was more than double that of Black ($43,900), and Hispanic households with children ($52,300).

Further, the report noted that the lack of affordable housing and federal rental assistance leaves millions of children homeless or at risk of homelessness.

More than 1.5 million children enrolled in public schools experienced homelessness during the 2017-2018 school year, and 74 percent of unhoused students during the 2017-2018 school year were living temporarily with family or friends.

Millions of children live in food-insecure households, lacking reliable access to safe, sufficient, and nutritious food, and more than 1 in 7 children – 10.7 million – were food insecure, meaning they lived in households where not everyone had enough to eat.

Black and Hispanic children were twice as likely to live in food-insecure households as White children.

The report further found that America’s schools have continued to slip backwards into patterns of deep racial and socioeconomic segregation, perpetuating achievement gaps.

For instance, during the 2017-2018 public school year, 19 percent of Black, 21 percent of Hispanic, and more than 26 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native school students did not graduate on time compared with only 11 percent of White students.

More than 77 percent of Hispanic and more than 79 percent of Black fourth and eighth grade public school students were not proficient in reading or math in 2019, compared with less than 60 percent of White students.

“We find that in the course of the last year, we’ve come to the point where our conversations about child well-being and our dialogue and reckoning around racial justice has really met a point of intersection, and so we must consider child well-being in every conversation about racial justice and quite frankly you can only sustainably speak of racial justice if we’re talking about the state of our children,” Dr. Wilson observed.

Some more of the startling statistics found in the report include:

  • A White public school student is suspended every six seconds, while students of color and non-White students are suspended every two seconds.
  • Conditions leading to a person dropping out of high school occur with white students every 19 seconds, while it occurs every nine seconds for non-White and students of color.
  • A White child is arrested every 1 minute and 12 seconds, while students of color and non-whites are arrested every 45 seconds.
  • A White student in public school is corporally punished every two minutes, while students of color and non-Whites face such action every 49 seconds.

Dr. Wilson asserted that federal spending “reflects the nation’s skewed priorities.”

In the report, he notes that children are not receiving the investment they need to thrive, and despite making up such a large portion of the population, less than 7.5 percent of federal spending went towards children in fiscal year 2020.

Despite Congress raising statutory caps on discretionary spending in fiscal years 2018 to 2020, children did not receive their fair share of those increases and children’s share of total federal spending has continued to decline.

“Children continue to be the poorest segment of the population,” Dr. Wilson demanded. “We are headed into a dark place as it relates to poverty and inequity on the American landscape because our children become the canary in the coal mine.”

Dr. Wilson did note that the Children’s Defense Fund is pleased about President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan, which, among other things, makes it easier for parents to keep their jobs and provides a lifeline for disadvantaged children.

The $1.9 trillion plan not only contained $1,400 checks for individuals, it includes monthly allowances and other elements to help reduce child poverty.

The President’s plan expands home visitation programs that help at-risk parents from pregnancy through early childhood and is presents universal access to top-notch pre-K for 3- and 4-year-olds.

“The American Rescue Plan carried significant and powerful anti-poverty messages that will have remarkable benefits on the lives of children in America over the course of the next two years,” Dr. Wilson declared.

“The Children’s Defense Fund was quick to applaud the efforts of the President. We have worked with partners, including leading a child poverty coalition, to advance the ideas of that investment,” he continued.

“Most notably, the expansion of the child tax credit which has the impact of reducing poverty, lifting more than 50 percent of African American children out of poverty, 81 percent of Indigenous children, 45 percent of Hispanic children. It’s not only good policy, but it’s specifically good policy for Black and Brown children.”

Click here to view the full report.

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